This is the third in the series of MS PowerPoint: Design and Output, accessibility and good practices. In MS PowerPoint, we have already looked at:

This week, we want to consider adding speakers notes in PowerPoint and the Accessibility Checker. Let’s get started!

What are speaker notes?

Let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable publicly speaking but it’s a great (and essential) skill to have.

Harking back to pre-digital era of presentations, speaker notes may have been a few numbered index cards with key points written on them. Having notes is beneficial, both for practical and memorization purposes.

From a practical perspective, a set of notes keeps the flow of the speech in order. Some may consider notes a ‘safety blanket’ and you may not need them, but they are there just in case.

When presenting, it’s helpful having a set of notes if you forget the finer details. It’s good to practice and memorize the delivery of what you want to say and it can be difficult to remember everything. Notes help reduce the pressure on you, use notes as a memory aid. However, don’t rely on the notes so much that the tone of your presentation falls flat. Practice!

Let’s turn our attention to notes in MS PowerPoint.

Adding speakers notes in MS PowerPoint

When creating slides, some use the Notes section to add additional text or information. This might be bullet points or facts and figures, stats or dates the speaker wants to refer to during a presentation.

When it comes to delivering the presentation in real-time, the notes you create should be sufficient as a memory aid.

Depending on the playback setup, the presenter can see the notes on screen whilst the audience can only see the content of the slides displayed. This makes for a more polished and professional delivery.

Bad practice:

  • No notes
  • Rambling notes without structure
  • Relying heavily on notes and not addressing the audience

Good practice:

  • Organized and structured notes
  • Formatting notes to highlight key points
  • Reminders of facts and figures
  • Anecdotal stories / ideas

It’s fair to say that not all stories or ideas may be presented as you may have several alternative stories or ideas noted depending audience interactions and reactions.

How to use notes in PowerPoint

Well, for this section we found some short videos to assist you with the adding of speaker notes, how to print notes and how to use speaker notes in presenter view. These Microsoft pages also gives you steps to follow.

Microsoft videos:

Printing slides with speaker notes

When it comes to ‘printing’ slides, this does not necessarily mean a paper copy as speaker notes can be printed to PDF and shared with audiences (i.e., students). What is the benefit of sharing notes? Students like notes and space for annotations. Some students have more needs than others when content is created and providing speaker notes can be very helpful in their learning.

Start the presentation and see your notes in presenter view

Presenting could be face-to-face such as in a conference scenario where you are delivering your speech to a room full of people. Presenter view allows you (the speaker) to view your notes on screen whilst the audience sees the slide content.

In presenter view it can be hard to view the notes on screen due to the initial size of text however Microsoft have this covered and allows the text size to be increased for your ease of viewing.

If you are presenting via MS Teams, Teams now have a presenter mode where you can access your PowerPoint notes during the delivery of your presentation. Some speakers in this instance may have more developed notes for teaching or recording their content, i.e., the notes section becomes a script.

Now all you need do is work on your presentation technique and not read the notes verbatim. Add life and interest to the content.

Notes as transcripts

Here, we want to consider MS PowerPoint notes as transcripts. This is for users creating narrations via PowerPoint, i.e., pre-recorded talks.

Firstly coming back to the memory aid perspective. Notes can be read whilst narrating the slides and it keeps the speaker on track. Just ensure it doesn’t sound like your reading straight from a script.

Secondly once your have narrated the slides, the notes can be printed to PDF and provided to students as a transcript. This improves the accessibility of the content to a broader audience reach. For example, this will help speakers of other languages, students living with deafness, as well has helping all students with the terminology contained within the talk.

Myth buster: Accessibility

Recently, a conversation highlighted one persons interpretation of accessibility. They stated: “All my content is all available online for my students to view, they can access it via the module” and whilst this is true it doesn’t mean the content can be viewed or digested by everyone in the same way.

As learning technologists, accessibility relates to how the digital content can be used by audience members living with disability. If we change the context from digital design to building design, can everyone enter every building in the world?

No. Some people may not be able to enter some buildings. What can done to improve entry? Firstly designers need to consider why some people may not be able to enter. It might be some people cannot walk up (or down) steps or they cannot turn the door handles to enter a building.

Solutions: provide ramps or lifts and automatic doors. These adjustments allow more people to enter buildings, overall these adjustments are beneficial to everyone.

Let’s bring the concept back to digital content! Whether we know the make up of our audiences or not, it is prudent to assume some audience members may have low or no vision and/or hearing and some audience members may be living with dyslexia and colour/contrast issues.

By applying best practices as standard and addressing accessibility for audience members living with vision, hearing, neurological and colour/contrast impairments, this increases the usability of the digital content to current and future audience members.

Making accessible content should be in the planning and design process, not an afterthought. Why only provide a transcript to one student living with deafness when it can also benefit students where English is a secondary language or where all students are new to the terminology?

Accessibility Checker – Demo

Below you will find a Demo of adding in and using the Accessibility Checker. Please click on the video below to learn more.

MS PowerPoint Demo – Accessibility Checker

When designing content, one typically designs from their own viewpoint. Now more than ever, we need to consider how accessible our content is for our audiences.

Bad practice:
  • Not using ALT Text for visual content
  • Screen grabs of text displayed as images
  • Not using slide templates
  • Adding text boxes
  • Overlapping information (i.e., images)

We made comment in the video about how tables should not be used to place information. This comment relates more to tables used on web pages. In MS PowerPoint, it is OK to use tables to place text and content. Just ensure text is selectable.

Good practice:
  • Applying ALT Text to visual content (all imagery / diagrams, videos and audio)
  • Titles on every slide
  • Check the reading order of the slides (important for screen reader users)
  • Following the WCAG guidelines re web standards
  • Using best practices in design, i.e., text, video, audio, etc.

The ALT Text descriptions are picked up by screen readers. It’s important content on slides is properly structured so each element is picked up and read in sequence.


There was a lot to consider this week regards making and using the speakers notes section and where this could be used. As a presenter, it’s important to practice presenting and to use notes practically and as a memory aid.

Developing the notes allows for them to be used as a transcript when narrating pre-recorded talks. It’s beneficial to also provide a PDF of these as a notes page or handout as this increases accessibility AND you’ve already created this resource.

When creating content, do think about your audience members needs. Try to future proof your content by considering different disabilities and catering towards those needs.

Next week

Our blog post next Monday will look at the Presenter View in PowerPoint and how this can be used in live-teaching.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are now released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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